Time for a Groundswell?

A point of view offered by a local activist from Berkshire

A recent poll found 40% of 18-24 year-olds would be willing to campaign against Brexit in some form over the coming months (https://www.ofoc.co.uk/poll/). That would be 2.8 million people from this age group alone. Yet I’ve spoken to so many young people, and older people too, who are horrified by Brexit but are doing nothing because they simply don’t realise there is anything they can do. Very few have heard of Best for Britain or Britain for Europe. They have no idea that there are any organisations campaigning to change course on Brexit, nor that it might be possible to do so. When they do hear it would be possible, many are greatly uplifted at the news. So how on earth can we allow a situation where citizens in a democracy with a fundamental right to seek a change of national policy are instead acting like prisoners on death row with no hope of appeal ? How on earth can we allow Brexit to go ahead when the majority don’t want it, just because so few realise they could still choose an alternative?

A game-changing groundswell against Brexit is currently waiting in the wings for the right cue to call it to centre stage. But will that cue ever come? This is how I dream it could happen: Please imagine for a moment that everyone in the country hears that popular big names have got together with youth campaigners and launched a new umbrella movement on Brexit. Let’s imagine that a host of popular figures, led by David Attenborough, JK Rowling, Brian May, and young campaigners, have stood up publicly to launch this umbrella movement which they have named “Hope in Unity”. The launch is well covered across national and social media. Everyone hears that Hope in Unity’s purpose is to campaign against the social and economic effects of Brexit and for a popular mandate to restore the UK’s full EU membership . They hear that the movement aims to renew not only the UK’s place in our regional community, but also to replace the growing inequality and intolerance in our society with growing solidarity and hope. They hear that a new umbrella “Supporters’ Base” website has been launched, underpinned by a whole network of pre-existing campaign groups. Memes go viral suggesting this might be the tipping-point for changing course on Brexit. All who agree with the movement’s aims are encouraged to register. From the Supporters’ Base website all these people can then access their Constituency Events Wiki, Special Interest Groups (eg under-18s, workers’ rights, NHS etc. ), access the Network Resource Catalogue, and potentially choose to join a Constituency Planning Forum. From the Constituency Events Wiki they would find info on all the street stalls, door knocking, leafleting, MP visits, “flash choirs”, media events, community events, training etc., both those already being organised on a limited scale by some brilliant grassroots groups, as well as advice on how to start these up and expand them. “Barnstorm”-style campaign training sessions could be rolled out online, to be undertaken at home with a group of friends or organised to do with others at a local meet-up in a cafe or pub. The Network Resources Catalogue would provide a searchable catalogue of creative ideas and downloadable, printable and orderable materials supplied by the various campaign organisations and a few by the umbrella network itself. Within a week of the launch hundreds of thousands of people have registered, and Hope in Unity “Join now!” posters are going up in windows across the country. Just imagine how such a visible and unified campaign could release a groundswell of new-found hope. People would start believing that change might be achievable. The national narrative will change as everyone sees that the younger generations will inevitably reverse Brexit in a future mandate. So the discussion becomes not a question of whether, but rather when, and after how much loss, the UK will renew its EU membership.

I believe this vision of the near-future is not just a dream but a real possibility. However, whether it actually happens will depend on visible popular demand for it. Public figures may be reluctant to put themselves forward, or even to respond to approaches from a particular group, but they may be more responsive to a plea from thousands of their fellow citizens. And equally, an initiative by an external figure or figures with widespread appeal and a grassroots mandate could bring together all the different groups. That is why I have started a petition for just such an umbrella launch to release all those millions currently imprisoned by a belief in Brexit Inevitability. We need the whole country to hear our calls for #TheSavingsOfUnion not #ExtraCosts, #WelfareState not #TaxHaven, #Protection not #Deregulation, #TradeDemocracy not #SecretSellOuts, #HumanRights not #LossOfAppeal, #Freedom not #Barriers, #Unity not #Enmity, #Influence not #Isolation, #Solutions not #Scapegoating, #AllOurVoices not #PressBaronPower, #OurSay4OurFuture not #LackOfFranchise, and #FullEUMembership not #PoorerDeal or #CliffEdgeCatastrophe. And who better to appeal to given the need to select, than JK Rowling, the author from whom the generations most opposed to Brexit learnt so much about sticking up for others, fighting prejudice and discrimination, the power of love and friendship over hate and arrogance, and the possibility of changing course? Then, for even more generations, David Attenborough has been the voice of wondrous discoveries. He must know the threats of Brexit deregulation to the environment, and having seen our continent at war and grown up with two refugee foster sisters, he has seen first-hand the worst effects of nationalism and scape-goating. As for May (the guitarist not the nation-wrecker), there are few with such ability to bring together and empower people to work as a team through songs like “We will Rock You” (sometimes now sung in rallies as “We are E.U”). Who better to bring together massive Unity Concerts to show friendship with the other 27 and make Britain’s young people visible to all in summer 2018? It is after all these young voices which most need to be heard on Brexit. They are the ones who would live with the worst consequences of a mandate from the grave. The petitioned “Our Future, Our Choice” was founded by a young student of EU and human rights law along with a young Bregrexiter. It already has connections with the major pro-European groups and recently landed an effective interview with Sky News. “Team Future” was founded by Manchester teenagers after the 2016 referendum as a response to being cut-out of the crucial decisions about their future, both during and since that vote. They want a say for those who will be most affected, i.e. young people, and in particular, Northern working class young people like themselves. Of course, there is already much great work being done by existing campaign groups, and this would underpin and determine the success of an umbrella campaign. That’s why the petition will also be delivered to campaign groups “Britain for Europe”, “Best for Britain”, “Another Europe is Possible”, “European Movement UK”, “INFacts”, “Open Britain”, “Healthier in the EU”, “Scientists for EU”, “Wales for Europe” and “Border Communities Against Brexit”.

Together, a coalition of sympathetic national treasures, determined young people, and a whole network of co-ordinated campaign groups. How else to break through onto the front page and release a truly grassroots groundswell of activism? And how else than that to defeat Brexit?


Kate Smith (mum of 2 young kids, SEN assistant, concerned citizen)

#HopeInUnity #groundswell #VOTErenEUal #PleaseTeamHufflepuff